Stage One: Anticipation
Begins: When you are watching the frowny-face weatherman gesture at a precipitation map that covers the entire Western Hemisphere and you think to yourself, “Hey! This weather event just might be my ticket out of going to work!” Yes. This is what you’ve been waiting for… a chance to kick back, watch some Olympics, ingest 3,500 calories’ worth of cookie dough in an hour, and “work” remotely.
Ends: When your boss sends out a superficially friendly email reminding everyone to stay safe on the way to the office tomorrow.
Key actions: Thinking fond, amnestic thoughts about the last snow day. Wasn’t that fun?
Google searches: [Your city name] + weather, [Your city name] + closures, tvguide.com
Pros: Your optimism is adorable.
Cons: You have absolutely no idea how awful things are going to be.
Stage Two: Preparation
Begins: When your boss finally relents and sends everyone home.
Ends: After you have purchased every single item you think you might possibly want to eat in the next seven days plus gotten stuck in a traffic jam that might or might not bear visual resemblance to the End of Days.
Google searches: Refreshing Google Maps over and over, hoping that this time the freeways won’t resemble angry red spiderwebs; epicurious.com for some ridiculously ambitious recipe that you finally have time to cook!
Key actions: Buying minute amounts of 14 expensive spices; hating every single driver that is not you.
Pros: The glee you feel in the pit of your stomach when something possibly consequential and out-of-the-ordinary is happening; also, fantasizing about how cozy and pajama-clad the next 72 hours will be.
Cons: You missed several important life stages while stuck on the interstate.
Stage Three: Enchantment
Begins: As soon as enough snow has fallen to turn even the most mundane things into lovely wintry sculpture. What was once a pile of garbage bags is now a tiny snow mountain!
Ends: Five minutes later when you slip into said garbage pile.
Google searches: None; you’re too busy doing a one-woman reenactment of the snow scene from Edward Scissorhands.
Key actions: Spinning and spinning; frolicking; falling down.
Pros: Feeling, ever so briefly, as though everything is magic and beautiful and also that you are Winona Ryder circa 1990.
Cons: Nothing good can last. Just ask Winona.
Stage Four: Thinking briefly about getting cross-country skis
Begins: When you see an adorably ruddy-cheeked couple on TV, flush with love and exertion and the knowledge that the entire city is their snowy, snowy oyster.
Ends: When you realize that, due to poor lifestyle choices, you would make it about 10 feet before collapsing like the long-distance Olympians, except at least they will walk away with a medal whereas you will just lay prone until someone finds your frozen body.
Google searches: “How many calories does cross-country skiing burn,” “cross country skiers falling down gif”
Pros: Getting to picture yourself gliding efficiently through town, perhaps en route to a snowy assignation.
Cons: Remembering what happened last time you impulsively embarked on a new fitness venture.
Stage Five: Netflix
Begins: Within five minutes of entering your apartment.
Ends: When the Internet goes out and you beseech God, wondering why a good and loving omnipotent entity would ever allow His children to go without new House of Cards episodes.
Google searches: (loud sobbing noise)
Key activities: Lolling, lounging, lazing… screaming.
Pros: It’s nice while it lasts.
Cons: Once the Internet goes down, you are T-minus 10 minutes from madness. Set an egg timer and see who breaks down first!
Stage Six: Pacing
Begins: Hour 24 of the snow event.
Ends: When a dark voice inside you notes that you cannot take it anymore. You are going to do SOMETHING… yes… something… it cannot go on like this…
Key activities: Establishing the most efficient route that entirely circumnavigates your living space; stepping on the cat by accident; soothing the cat; pacing with the cat who, frankly, is not enjoying this any more than you.
Pros: At least you’re burning some calories! …
Cons: …which will leave you in peak physical fitness for Stage Seven, which is—
Stage Seven: Homicidal ideation
Begins: When your partner/roommate/child does something small, inoffensive, and entirely in character—and it sets you off the deep end. How DARE they prepare some pasta/laugh aloud at a sitcom/ask you when it’s lunchtime? They, like the snow, are forming a vast, cold conspiracy to drag you down, to thwart you at every turn, to scrape and strip away at the very last membrane of your sanity and you cannot take it anymore.
Ends: When you decide that venturing out into a 15 degree blizzard is, all things considered, probably a better choice than setting off a chain of events that ends with a sad, solemn judge sending you away for life.
Key activities: Eye twitching, involuntary fist-clenching.
Google searches: “Can you stab someone with an icicle?” “Is stabbing someone with an icicle really the perfect crime?”
Pros: Feeling in control, if only for a moment.
Stage Eight: Knowing it is way, way too cold to go outside; going outside anyway; coming right back inside
Begins: When you must forcibly stop yourself from striking a loved one in the face.
Ends: When eyelash-ice-accumulation renders you blind, your frozen tears only compounding the problem.
Key activities: Bundling; feeling optimistic; lying to yourself; blinking when the wind hits your eyeballs; wondering if you will ever feel your face again
Pros: Freedom, glorious freedom!
Cons: Frostbite, terrible frostbite!
Stage Nine: Submission and capitulation to Winter, your new and cruel God
Begins: When there is nothing left. You are a shell of a human. You have taken to gnawing on dried pasta, the only thing left in your larder after days of gorging. You question every decision—personal, professional, spiritual—that has led you to this snowy wasteland.
Ends: When the snow melts and life resumes.
Key activities: Existential despair; wondering WHY WHY WHY you purchased $14 worth of cardamom instead of a bus ticket out of this place; wishing you had not run through all of the House of Cards episodes so quickly.
Pros: It is only once you admit to yourself that you are powerless over the snow that you can begin to make your life manageable again.
Cons: There is no such thing as a 12-Step program for winter precipitation, and even if there was, you’d have no way to get there.
Stage Ten: The Forgetting
Make amends to those you live with, go back to work, enjoy getting to eat meat again. Then, after two to four weeks have passed and your mind has revised every single thing that happened and you find yourself wishing for the lazy, fun snow days of yore… the weatherman shows up. He has some news for you. He has some news for all of us.